Coffee Megacorp Inc. establishments are so popular with Western New Yorkers that it is no longer unusual for my morning commute to be interrupted by lines of customers waiting in their cars for coffee.
Many mornings, the lines are so long that they extend into public thoroughfares. Instead of joining the traffic jam, an increasing number of Buffalonians are seeking their caffeine fix elsewhere.
In a small number of neighborhood establishments, a coffee revolution is underway. Instead of just unloading packages from a truck and pouring hot water over their contents, today’s coffee revolutionaries aim to fine-tune every step of the coffee life cycle with the obsessive attention of winemakers.
The results give us grounds to celebrate.
Nitro cold brew ($4.50/$6.50) from Grateful Grind
3225 Main St., 831-3739
What started as a small roaster has become a University Heights coffee shop. A specialty is nitro cold brew, coffee that’s been made with a long steep in cool water. The results, lower in acid, are charged with nitrogen.
When it’s poured, bubbles cascade through the drink like a Guinness pint, and the result is remarkably creamy, without adding any dairy.
Mocha latte ($4.25) from Tipico
148 Fargo Ave., 331-3954
Starting with chocolate syrup housemade made from single-bean chocolate, there is nothing ordinary about the latte at this West Side Third Wave coffee temple.
The milk is organic from the Finger Lakes, the coffee has been tracked from its source and meticulously roasted at Wisconsin’s Ruby and ground to the optimum granular size. The latte art on top is merely the finishing touch.
Espresso and soda water ($2.50) from Public Espresso
391 Washington St., 341-2150
Beans roasted on Grant Street are served from this coffee lounge in the Hotel @ the Lafayette lobby. Baristas consider factors like ambient humidity and the beans’ age in hours to “dial in” settings for pulling espresso shots, updating the recipe during the day. The glass lets drinkers see the “crema” that rises in proper espresso, and soda water cleanses the palate.
Brazilian cortado ($3.25) from Daily Planet Coffee
1862 Hertel Ave., 551-0661
Specialties at this stylish Hertel Avenue hideaway and live music venue include a spicy little number called a Brazilian cortado. It starts with two shots of espresso, Ghirardelli chocolate syrup and steamed milk.
What takes it into the stratosphere is cayenne, hot chile pepper flakes, a pinch in the bottom and more on top, for a coffee drink that warms you two ways.
Siphon ($7/$10) from Cafféology
23 Allen St., 427-3147
This mad scientist contraption brews stronger, more evocatively flavored coffee as you watch. Water in the bottom vessel is heated until it boils into the top, where it steeps for a precisely timed interval before draining into the bottom, for drinking. A few sips and you’ll understand why they went to all the trouble. A double makes a memorable drink to share.
Pour-over ($1.95/$2.95) from Undergrounds
580 South Park Ave., 240-9923
The slower introduction of piping-hot water to freshly roasted and ground coffee produces a fuller flavor. At this coffeehouse, wrought from a South Buffalo funeral home, club members get a mug emblazoned with their favorite deceased celebrity.